Angels: Their Nature and Ministry



Satan, having lost his place in heaven, seemed to have been inspired with the determination to do all the mischief that he could. Man had been created and put in possession of the earth: “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.” Genesis 1:26. “The heaven, even the heavens, are the the Lord’s; but the earth hath He given to the children of men.” Psalm 115:16. God made man to possess and rule over the earth. It was his to occupy and enjoy. He himself was made of the earth; his destiny was linked with that of the earth. Satan, as the result shows, had a design upon both man and his possession. ATNM 75.1

Did Satan have anything to do with the fall of man? The Scriptures plainly show that he did. In Revelation 12:9 the prophet speaks of “that old serpent, called the devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world.” If he deceiveth the whole world, he must have deceived our parents in the beginning. John says: “He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning.” 1 John 3:8. In verse 12 he says that Cain “was of that wicked one, and slew his brother.” Then that wicked one was in the world in the days of Cain, and instigated him to kill his brother. “That old serpent” which deceiveth the whole world, deceived Eve. He lied to her, and made her believe that it was for her good to eat of the fruit that they were commanded not to eat. Says Paul, “The woman being deceived was in the transgression.” 1 Timothy 2:14. She did not do this deed willfully, but she was deceived. “And the Lord God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.” Genesis 3:13. To argue that it was simply the reptile that did all this is absurd. But when we understand that Satan was there with all his cunning, and used the serpent as his medium to deceive Eve, all is rational and harmonious. And this shows the truthfulness of the saying of Jesus, that the devil was a liar from the beginning. ATNM 76.1

We must not lose sight of the fact that God did not bestow upon man unlimited control of the earth. He did not resign his own right and authority as proprietor of the earth, but constituted man ruler under his directions. Man was the creature, the servant of God. He was appointed to subdue the earth and bring it all into the condition of the garden of Eden. Genesis 1:28; 2:8. God was his Benefactor, his Counselor, his Sovereign. He crowned man with glory and honor (Psalm 8:3-8), and gave him a right to the tree of life (Genesis 2:9, 16, 17). This was given to perpetuate his life, that he might live forever. Genesis 3:22, 23. Notice what man lost by his transgression:- ATNM 76.2

1. He lost his life. “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” “For the wages of sin is death.” Romans 5:12; 6:23. Death came as the result of sin. If man had not sinned, he would have lived forever. “And the Lord God said, ... and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever: therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden.” Genesis 3:22, 23. ATNM 77.1

The loss of life involves the loss of everything. We may lose many things in life, but when our life is lost, we have no more to lose. Life is the greatest of all gifts and blessings, for all other blessings are comprised in it and dependent upon it. In giving Adam the tree of life in the garden in which he was placed, God made provision for the perpetuation of his life; he might “eat and live forever,” By sinning he lost this privilege. ATNM 77.2

2. He lost his dominion over the earth. Adam and his posterity did not retain that dominion which was given to him in the beginning. In the beginning every beast, and the fowls, and the fishes, were under his sway. After the fall they became wild, and in many cases became the enemies and destroyers of man. And man became the enemy of his fellow-man. Discord and strife seemed to enter into the hearts of all creatures. Everything became changed from the original arrangement. And the Lord placed a curse upon the earth-upon the dominion which he had given to man. Instead of flowers and pleasant fruits, thorns and thistles sprang up spontaneously, to add to his cares and sorrows. Why was this? ATNM 78.1

In order that we may understand why a curse was placed upon the earth, we raise the inquiry, When man sinned, did the Lord God take back to himself the dominion which he had bestowed upon him? It is true, as was said, that when man sinned he lost everything, but did the Lord withdraw the dominion that he had given him? We do not read that he did. Indeed, we do not believe that he would have put it under a curse if he had taken back to himself all the right with which he had invested man at the beginning. What, then, was the exact nature of the change that took place? Let us examine some facts presented in the New Testament. ATNM 78.2

We have seen that man, in the beginning, turned from his kind Creator, disobeyed His direct commandment, believed the falsehoods of his enemy, and did just what Satan wished him to do. The woman was beguiled to disobey, and the man joined her in disobedience. Now hear the testimony of the Scriptures: “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey?” Romans 6:16. Again: “For of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage.” 2 Peter 2:19. They obeyed Satan and became his servants; they were overcome by him, and therefore they were his bond servants. He was the means of their losing their lives, for he had the power of death. Hebrews 2:14. When they died, they went into sheol, “the land of the enemy.” Jeremiah 31:15, 16; 1 Corinthians 15:26. And he was surely the means of their losing the dominion of the earth, for it was lost by sin. It is evident that Satan gained dominion over man and over the earth; that man, in becoming the bond servant of Satan, let his dominion pass into the hands of his new master. The Lord did not at once destroy Satan for his sin, nor did He at once execute the sentence of death upon man, nor did He take back from the usurper the dominion that was given to Adam, of which he had been defrauded, but He put a curse upon it, and reserved further changes till after the judgment shall pass upon all offenses-until the seed of the woman shall bruise the head of the serpent. ATNM 78.3

Here we will notice again some of the titles that are applied to Satan. He is called “the God of this world.” 2 Corinthians 4:4. Jesus Himself calls him “the prince of the world.” John 14:30. Paul, speaking of the foes with whom we have to contend, says: “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world.” Ephesians 6:12. ATNM 79.1

Is it indeed so that Satan is the god, the prince, the ruler of this world? So the Scriptures surely teach. And we have yet more testimony to the same point, and if possible more decisive. Consider the temptation of the Saviour. His adversary is called the tempter, and the devil, but Jesus addressed him as Satan. The devil is a title, but Satan is a proper name. It was not an imaginary being that tempted Him, nor was it the mere impressions or imaginations of His own mind, or the promptings of His passions. All such theories and speculations are but the suggestions of the enemy himself; to enable him to conceal his person and his character. Jesus, having fasted forty days, became hungry. The devil said to Him, “If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.” The tempter appealed to His appetite, made keen by His long fasting, and challenged Him to prove that He was the Son of God. But Jesus refused to gratify his caviling spirit, giving us an example, that we should not bow to the suggestions of Satan, either to meet our own wants or to prove our calling of God. Our relationship to our Heavenly Father should be borne in humility, giving no place to spiritual pride. Jesus quoted that scripture which leads to dependence upon the word of God. ATNM 80.1

But Satan was not to be baffled thus; he, too, quoted the Scripture. But in this another lesson is given us,-not to believe everyone who quotes the Scriptures. Satan quoted the Scriptures correctly, but he misapplied them. The text he quoted has no reference to such an occasion. By reading Psalm 91, anyone can see that it refers to the future time of trouble, when the plagues of God’s wrath shall be poured out upon the earth. See Revelation 16. But here Jesus met him with a scripture that is of universal application, and applied especially at that time: “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.” A fitting rebuke to the tempter was contained in these words. ATNM 81.1

Again the devil took him up into an exceeding high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of this world, and the glory of them. A magnificent sight, that has always proved so captivating to the men of this world! “And the devil said unto him, All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine.” Matthew 4:1-10; Luke 4:1-13. ATNM 81.2

Now it is written that “the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.” Psalm 37:11; Matthew 5:5. But they can never delight themselves in the abundance of peace in the present sinful state of the world. Jesus said, “In the world ye shall have tribulation.” Great changes must take place before Psalm 37:11 can be fulfilled. “The righteous shall be recompensed in the earth,” but not until the curse is removed, and the design of the original gift to Adam is fulfilled. The promise that he should be the heir of the world was made to Abraham and his seed (Genesis 12:1-7, etc.; Romans 4:13); and that seed was Christ (Galatians 3:16); and the heir is to be the Redeemer of both man and his inheritance, according to the Scriptures. But redemption could only be wrought by the power of His blood; His life was the precious price He was to pay to purchase man from his bondage. But Satan set before Him an easier method of getting possession of the dominion. It had been committed to him, and he gave it to whomsoever he would, and he would give it to Jesus if He would bow down to him. ATNM 81.3

But many make this reply: Satan told a falsehood; he had nothing to give; nothing had been committed to him; neither the kingdoms of the world nor the glory of them were in his power. But if that was so, the Saviour surely knew it. And if He knew that the devil possessed nothing-that he had no power to confer any dominion or glory-then wherein was He tempted? If Satan had them to give, if Jesus could have obtained the dominion of the earth without the dreadful alternative of dying, it would surely be a temptation. If He knew that Satan had no power to fulfill his promise, that his words were an idle boast, there could not possibly be any temptation in the case. But the sacred record sets it down as a temptation, and we believe that it was. To Adam it was given in the beginning; Satan obtained supremacy over man; he took all the title that Adam held, which was but a limited power. The possessor of that power could go no further than God sees fit to permit. By overcoming man, Satan became the prince, or god, of this world. ATNM 82.1

And this is yet more clearly proved in Revelation 11:14-18. The third woe comes upon the earth when the seventh angel’s trumpet is sounded. This is the last of the trumpets, and closes up this dispensation. Under this trumpet it is said: “The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ.” We are accustomed to recognize the Scripture fact that the Father is to bestow the dominion, the kingdom, upon his Son, Jesus Christ. But this text shows that they become the kingdoms of our Lord, as well as of His Christ. Again, the elders, worshiping him who sits upon the throne, say: “We give Thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because Thou hast taken to Thee Thy great power, and hast reigned.” The next verse shows that this is when the time has come to judge the dead and to give reward to all the servants of God. What power but that once conferred upon Adam could the great God take to Himself, and give to His Christ, just before the close of this dispensation? How can the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, except by our Lord dispossessing the great usurper, and taking back to Himself the dominion of the earth? Then He confers it upon the second Adam, who redeems it, removes the curse, and restores man to his own inheritance; in a word, recovers from the enemy all that was lost by the first Adam. ATNM 83.1

In regard to the present condition of the world, John says: “And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness.” 1 John 5:19. On this text Dr. Adam Clarke comments as follows:- ATNM 84.1

“Lieth in the wicked one,-is embraced in the arms of the devil, where it lies fast asleep, and carnally secure, deriving its heat and power from its infernal fosterer. What a truly awful state! And do not the actions, the tempers, propensities, opinions, and maxims of all worldly men prove and illustrate this? ‘In this short expression,’ says Mr. Wesley, ‘the horrible state of the world is painted in the most lively colors, a comment of which we have in the actions, conversations, contracts, quarrels, and friendships of worldly men. Yes, their actions are opposed to the law of God; their conversation, shallow, simulous, and false; their contracts, forced, interested, and deceitful; their quarrels, puerile, ridiculous, and ferocious; and their friendships, hollow, insincere, capricious, and fickle:-all, all the effect of their lying in the arms of the wicked one; for thus they become instinct with his own spirit and because they are of their father, therefore his lusts will they do.” ATNM 84.2

This is a truthful representation of the world in the aggregate. The children of God in this world are so few that they only form an exception to the general rule. They are not of the world, but are chosen out of the world. Of them Jesus said: “If ye were of the world, the world would love his own; but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.” John 15:19. This is conclusive proof that the world is now under the control of Satan, serving him. If God ruled in this world, to be a child of God would be to do as the world does. But the truth is, this whole world is in rebellion against God, and is serving Satan, God’s great enemy. Hence James says: “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” James 4:4. For a season God permits this in His long-suffering and mercy; in His long-suffering He permits the wicked to fill up the cup of their iniquity; in His mercy he delays the judgments until His elect are prepared for an abundant entrance into His everlasting kingdom. ATNM 85.1

Satan accomplished his purpose when he approached the holy pair in Eden: he destroyed their happiness; ruined an almost countless multitude of their posterity; instilled his own spirit into the hearts of their children; spread crime and bloodshed everywhere; and gained to himself a possession on the earth. But he could not foresee that the Son of God, against whom he had rebelled, would even give His life to purchase all to Himself, and work such a triumph over the enemy of all righteousness as would cause every creature in the universe to rejoice in his destruction. When that day comes, may we be of those who shall join in the triumph of the Lamb of God. ATNM 85.2